Republicans, Obama talk budget, but stumbling blocks remain
US President Barack Obama made the short trip to Capitol Hill Wednesday to meet with Republican lawmakers, but a long distance remains to be bridged as the sides seek to reach agreement on deficit reduction measures, DPA reported.
Obama has spent much of the week reaching out to lawmakers from both parties as Washington faces the multi-pronged challenge of replacing 85 billion dollars in budget cuts with less drastic deficit reduction measures and crafting deals on both a short-term budget to fund the government through the rest of the year and a 2014 budget.
The meeting with Republicans came a day after the conservative party offered its 2014 budget proposal, which would slash spending and balance the budget within a decade, but would be a political non-starter with Obama and his Democratic Party. The White House has yet to release its own budget proposal and has said it will do so only in April.
Speaker of the House John Boehner called the talks "a very frank and candid exchange of ideas," noting they were "productive."
"I hope that these kinds of discussions can continue. Even though we have very real differences, our job is to find common ground, to do the work the American people sent us here to do," he said.
Still, sharp divisions remained, with Republicans opposed to including new tax increases in deficit reduction measures and instead focussing on spending.
"If the president wants to let our unwillingness to raise taxes get in the way, then we're not going to be able to set differences aside and focus on what we agree on," said Congressman Eric Cantor after the meeting.
Obama and the Republicans have battled for months on tax and budget matters, with 85 billion dollars in automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1 among the latest points of contention.
Obama has called on lawmakers to replace those cuts, known as the sequester, with less drastic spending reductions coupled with higher taxes, while Republicans look to lock in spending cuts.
The sides must also agree to a short-term deal to fund the government through the rest of the budget year before the current law expires later this month, or risk a government shutdown.